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'Croods' beats 'Judas and the Black Messiah' debut at box office

The premiere of 'Judas and the Black Messiah' shows how awards season has been disrupted by the pandemic , with awards bait premiering months later than normal

In this image provided by DreamWorks Animation, Phil Betterman, from left, (Peter Dinklage), Guy (Ryan Reynolds) and Hope Betterman (Leslie Mann) in a scene from DreamWorks Animation's "The Croods: A New Age," directed by Joel Crawford. The movie was released at Thanksgiving 2020. (DreamWorks Animation LLC via AP) (AP)

Judas and the Black Messiah, a tale about FBI attempts to infiltrate the Black Panthers that is shaping up as an awards-season favorite in the US, took the No. 2 spot in its opening weekend as viewers instead flocked to an older, animated film.

The Warner Bros. film, starring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield, generated $2 million in domestic ticket sales from Friday to Sunday, according to industry researcher Comscore Inc. That’s below BoxOffice Pro’s estimate of $2.4 million sales, which was already a paltry sum by pre-pandemic standards. Universal’s The Croods: A New Age, which came out around Thanksgiving Day, led the box office with slightly higher sales of $2.04 million.

Judas also premiered Friday on HBO Max, the streaming service owned by Warner parent company AT&T Inc., in an effort to maximize the number of people who have access to the film during the pandemic.

The premiere of Judas is indicative of how the looming movie-awards season has been disrupted by the pandemic this year. Normally, films expected to outperform at the Golden Globes and Oscars in January or February make splashy theatrical premieres in December. This year, both shows have been pushed back at least a month because of the coronavirus, meaning awards bait is also premiering later. Further, about 60% of U.S. theaters remain closed, according to data from Comscore, leaving studios more reliant on the web.

Next weekend, another Oscar favorite, Walt Disney Co.’s Nomadland, will debut on Hulu, as well as in cinemas. The film, starring Frances McDormand, is based on a nonfiction book about adults struggling to make it in the U.S. after the 2008 financial crisis. A third awards contender, Promising Young Woman from Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures, was only in theaters for three weeks before it was offered online.

So far, streaming premieres haven’t seemingly cut too much into physical ticket sales, though it’s hard to say in the middle of a pandemic. Two weeks ago, when Warner’s The Little Things premiered in cinemas and on HBO Max, that film generated almost twice the volume of cinema ticket sales analysts had predicted. Comscore reported the movie earned $2 million this weekend -- the same as Judas and the Black Messiah.

Warner’s Wonder Woman 1984, which came out on Christmas Day, is also still playing. Most brand-new blockbusters have been delayed until the second half of 2021, with studios hoping that widespread vaccine distribution means audiences will be able to gather in larger numbers.

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